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In mid-2019, the Office of the Chief Science Advisor (OCSA) identified several flaws with the federal government’s system for responding to health emergencies, including limited capacity to quickly solicit expert advice and an inefficient communication pipeline that risked providing the public advice that was fragmented or contradictory. “The timing of these efforts proved fortuitous … as they all helped shape the OCSA’s support to the government in the first weeks of Canada’s pandemic response,” reads the department’s latest annual report. (The Logic)

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Talking point: By late February, the OCSA had created the COVID-19 Expert Panel, a group of infectious-disease experts, to guide chief science advisor Dr. Mona Nemer’s advice to the federal government. The report, released Tuesday, also outlines how the OCSA’s groundwork on open science and data prepared the department to collaborate with other countries in a push to make COVID-19-related research easily accessible to their colleagues and the public. While the pandemic response has been a main focus for the OCSA for most of 2020, the department’s broader mandate also focuses on open science and improving support for quality research. In its report, the OCSA recommended deadlines over the next five years by which research produced by federal scientists and the data that informs that work should be easily accessible. It also recommended five-year reviews of federally funded research facilities, support for which the OCSA found “considerable complexity and heterogeneity.”

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The president claimed “sometimes over 100,000” people die from the seasonal flu each year, which he said was much more lethal than COVID-19 “in most populations.” Facebook removed the post, while Twitter slapped a warning label on Donald Trump’s Tuesday morning tweet, saying it “violated Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 22,000 people died during the 2019–2020 flu season in the U.S., roughly 10 times less than the number of COVID-19-related deaths in the country so far. (CNBC)

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Talking point: Trump cried censorship at the move, tweeting out “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!,” a reference to provision in the 1996Communications Decency Act that allows social media companies to moderate their own platforms for harmful and deceptive content without penalization. This week, The Logic wrote about Patrick Pichette, the Montreal executive recently appointed Twitter’s independent chairman at a time when the company’s response to harmful and misleading content is an all but existential problem.

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Between March 1 and September 19, 1.44 per cent of U.S. workers for Amazon and its subsidiary Whole Foods have tested positive or been presumed positive for the virus. Amazon said if its rate were more in line with that of the general U.S. population, it would have seen closer to 34,000 cases. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Amazon has kept its facilities open during the pandemic to respond to the rise in online shopping. In response, the company has faced criticism for putting its workers’ health at risk, including from workers who walked off the job in March, demanding the firm take better care to keep them safe. The company said it “introduced or changed over 150 processes,” including implementing temperature checks, physical-distancing requirements and additional cleaning “across each site about every 90 minutes.” An Amazon spokesperson told The Logic they could not provide information on the infection rates of its Canadian and global workforces. To date, about 0.43 per cent of Canadians have tested positive for the virus, compared to around two per cent of Americans.

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In a new report, Canada’s largest pension fund outlined four factors that are likely to impact investment long term: permanent changes in consumer behaviour, including broad e-commerce adoption among older consumers; a shift toward telehealth despite concern over personal data privacy; outmigration’s impact on cities; and diversification of global supply chains. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The report offers some insight into how Canada Pension Plan Investments may shift its long-term strategy for investing its $434 billion in assets on behalf of some 20 million Canadians. In an interview with The Logic in May, CPPIB CEO Mark Machin said the firm intends to keep growing its portfolio exposure in China and that it was not prepared to offload its real estate investments at that point. The new analysis calls into question those priorities, suggesting urban infrastructure may lose value and the China-reliant global supply chain may fracture.